Ford is vitally concerned that customers for its upcoming Mustang Mach-E battery electric SUV get to experience all the goodness of the Mustang tradition, so it has created an optional sound system that will recreate the lusty rumble of a real Mustang powered by a real gasoline-powered American V-8. Holy dual exhausts, Batman! It’s gonna be awesome!
“It’s one of those things where we’re trying to give people the Mustang experience,” Leeway Ho, vehicle engineering supervisor of the Mustang Mach-E, told CNBC during a ride-along in the vehicle at Ford’s Michigan Proving Ground. “It’s not just the power, it’s the sound that comes with it. Without the sound, you’re just a regular EV car.”
Don’t confuse this with the electronic noise this electric Ford will broadcast to those outside the world populated by pedestrians and bicyclists so they are aware of its presence. This is a dedicated sound system that interacts with throttle position and torque output to faithfully mimic what the car would sound like if it actually had a real V-8 engine burbling through twin exhaust pipes. Ho proudly calls it “audio wizardy.” He says, “It’s electronically generated but it’s based on vehicle torque. It’s taking a look at your incoming torque and power signals, speed, and it’s doing the math to say we should generate this frequency at this loudness.”
The engine noises sound like they’re coming from the front of the vehicle, or “frunk,” but they’re actually coming from the car’s speakers — whether the radio is on or not. “That’s how it’s tuned,” Ho said. “It’s all very natural.” To get the sound right, Ford engineers researched sound profiles from movies, machinery, the Formula-E race series, roller coasters and amusement park rides, and conventional internal combustion engine sounds. The final Mustang Mach-E sounds include “futuristic sound profile elements with hints of conventional Mustang sound elements,” the company says.
In the standard versions of the car, the sound is less like a traditional Mustang powered by a V-8 engine and more like the sound you would expect from a Mustang if it were a crossover vehicle. The sound changes based on which mode the vehicle is set to — whisper, engaged, or unbridled. Each mode is tuned to change the vehicle’s driving dynamics and other characteristics such as the information cluster, ambient lighting, and sounds.
“This car is definitely tuned to be as sporty as possible without trading off the ride and comfort that somebody with a five-passenger crossover would expect,” Ho said. “Though it’s a Mustang, it’s got to have the utility of carrying your stuff on a weekend and your two kids in the back.” For the high performance GT version of the car, the sound is “cranked up more,” Ho says.
The GT version will also feature something called the MagneRide Damping System, an adaptive suspension technology that lets drivers hug the road while delivering an exciting, comfortable ride. Ford says the Mustang Mach-E GT, which starts at $60,500, will sprint to 60 mph in about 3.5 seconds, while the standard car will get to 60 in about 5 seconds. The cars are expected in dealer showrooms about a year from now.
We could be snide and suggest that Ford should spend more time developing competitive electric cars and less time trying to recapture the glory days of the Mustang Mach I and various high performance variants with names like Shelby and Roush plastered on their flanks. It almost seems Ford wants to keep one foot firmly planted in the past rather than move fully into the electric car future. Nonetheless, some buyers will still get high on the sound of throbbing V-8 engine. In any event, it should be more enjoyable than amusing passengers with the sound of flatulence and other anatomical emanations as Tesla has chosen to do. As my old Irish grandmother liked to say, “There’s no accounting for taste.”
Ford says its First Edition version of the Mustang Mach-E is sold out, although it declines to say how many First Edition cars it plans to make. As we pointed out last November, it could be a few dozen, a few hundred, or a few thousand. We do know Ford says it plans to sell about 50,000 Mustang Mach-Es in the first full year of production.
The Mustang Mach-E will delight many loyal Ford owners, but some of its specs are underwhelming, especially when it comes to charging speed. Cars with the larger 98.7 kWh battery require 45 minutes to go from a 10% to 80% state of charge using a 150 kW charger, while cars with the smaller 75.7 kWh battery need 38 minutes for the same task. Neither is exactly a world class time. Nevertheless, the Mustang Mach-E is a major step forward for Ford on the way to the EV revolution. We can’t wait to test drive one next year.